Friday, September 25, 2020

Shenmue Clothing Through the Years | Guest Post by James Brown

A vast amount of merchandise has been produced for the Shenmue series since its release on the Dreamcast in Japan back in 1998. As an avid Shenmue collector, it used to surprise me, but now I have more of a shocked feeling that SEGA and various other companies have released such an incredible amount of items for a game series that is seemingly considered "niche".

People are often quick to attack the total cost of the original games as setting world records for the most expensive games every created. However, if you take into account all the merchandise that came with the marketing that Shenmue had, from small video game shop events to huge-scale events such as E3 and TGS (not to mention its own special events) and with batches of new items being added quite often to this day, some of those original "losses" must have been recouped by now!

In this post I'd like to take a more specific look at all of the clothing items that have been released and sold since 1998.

After reading this post, the next time you see a tweet from SEGA asking fans what Shenmue merchandise they would like to see next, and someone inevitably chimes in thinking they have an original idea for a "Ryo Hazuki jacket"... you'll be able to let them know that there have already been 6 (and technically more)!

I'm going to go through everything that I am aware of (and for the most part, own myself), in chronological time order. 

Let's begin with the aforementioned Ryo Hazuki jackets!


[2001] SEGA Promotional Jackets

For the sake of completeness, let's start by mentioning the jackets that were created by SEGA for their promotion of Shenmue 2 in 2001. This is the technicality mentioned above about the number of jackets made to date.

Japanese voice actor Masaya Matsukaze wore one at events such as the AM2 Summer Festival, and in a mock "television commercial" promo video for Shenmue II.
Masaya Matsukaze wearing Ryo's jacket at the AM2 Summer Festival event in 2001
Masaya Matsukaze wearing Ryo's jacket at the AM2 Summer Festival event in 2001
The jacket also made an appearance in a mock "television commercial" for Shenmue II
The jacket also made an appearance in a mock "television commercial" for Shenmue II
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Saturday, September 19, 2020

Niaowu Confidential Part 1 - Ma Jialing | Guest Post by Dave Matthews (SalsaShark)

Hello and welcome to Part I of Niaowu Confidential! Thanks again to Switch for the opportunity to post at Phantom River Stone!

If you missed my earlier series, 'Bailu Village Secrets', Part I is here.

Today I'd like to delve into a character that pretty much every player will be familiar with, but who makes her presence felt around town in some intriguing and non-obvious ways, Ma Jialing!

Jialing in her element

Yu Suzuki, in a production interview for Shenmue III, has stated that Jialing is one of his favorite NPCs in the game. At one point he mentions her as one of the 'Three Beauties of Niaowu' - a group of three women who each have a secret customer phone card somewhere in town!

Jialing's secret phone card

See here for Switch's excellent post translating the interview: 

The first thing new players are likely to notice upon entering Hotel Niaowu for the first time are the hair curlers. Jialing has a perpetual rainbow of large curlers twisting her dark hair; how that doesn't hurt like crazy after a few minutes I have no idea. Otherwise, Jialing dresses for comfort in slippers, a loose floral skirt, and a bright red cardigan. It's a very motherly vibe all in all, and that sense only increases when first confronted with her blunt, no-nonsense demeanor. Jialing feels like an homage to the popular 'badass landlady' character trope seen in old kung-fu movies (think 'Kung-Fu Hustle).

Source: IMDB
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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Shenmue Undub: Definitive Edition | Video & Download

Case mock-up art by Shenmue Forever

In this post, we present an improved version of the Kogami Shenmue Undub, brought to you Shenmue Master and Phantom River Stone.


A few years ago we talked about a "100% translation" project that was underway by Shenmue Master and Phantom River Stone to produce an improved "Shenmue Undub" (Japanese audio + English subtitles) for the Dreamcast.

Previous fan builds of an Shenmue Undub had paved the way and already represented great achievements, and the Kogami version in particular was recognized as the most comprehensive version to date. There were however a few known issues still to overcome, such as a small percentage of subtitle lines that remained in Japanese for NPCs and a couple of minor glitches. Also, due to size requirements, the use of (notoriously-unreliable) 99-minute discs was necessary for playing on Dreamcast hardware.

The goal then for this project was to build on optimized version of Kogami's Shenmue Undub that would bring together a complete set of Japanese audio with a fully-translated set of English subtitles, and if possible fit these onto standard-capacity CD-R discs without compromising audio quality or loss of content.

Shenmue Master initiated the project, and reached out to Phantom River Stone to work together to achieve the goal. Work took place over a span of several months and a working version was achieved. However the project was subsequently put into hibernation, due to various factors.

The project team is now pleased to announce the result of the project effort: an updated Shenmue Undub which has been named the Definitive Edition.

Features & General Information

What is the Shenmue Undub (Definitive Edition) all about? Here is a brief list of features:

  • Based on the Kogami Undub: this version builds upon the most complete fan-made Undub version, which was created by Kogami and runs on the Dreamcast.
  • Full English subtitles: the official translated lines are used where available. A small number of the Japanese spoken lines (around 3%) which did not have English equivalent translations available have been translated by hand. A few small corrections were also made to fix specific lines that had incorrect grammar or meaning.
  • Full Japanese audio with no down-sampling.
  • PAL-compatible save files: saves can be carried over to the PAL version of Shenmue II.
  • CDDA audio tracks included: recorded audio tracks play as expected during the game (e.g. the music that plays when Ryo rides home from the harbor with Nozomi on the back of his motorcycle).
  • Coca Cola branding: the branding for the vending machines and soda cans in the game shows the Coca Cola branding, as seen in the Japanese version of Shenmue..
  • Fixes for small glitches identified in the previous Undub version (e.g. conversations when Ryo knocked on house doors did not play out properly).
  • Fits on standard CD-R discs: the images have been stream-lined to allow them to be played on a Dreamcast console using standard CD-R discs, with no missing or cut content.

Notes for Play

  • Enable subtitles before starting play: at the main Shenmue menu screen first go to Options -> Dialog & Text -> and choose "Game Mode". This ensures that subtitles will be shown during all cut scenes and game play. Unless this mode is selected, no subs will be displayed!

Download Shenmue Undub: Definitive Edition for the Dreamcast

Disclaimer: to legally use this you must own an original copy of Shenmue for the Dreamcast.


The Definitive Edition is an extension of the Shenmue Undub version created by Kogami.

This project was led by the team at Shenmue Master who optimized the disc images. Translations for lines not officially available were provided by Phantom River Stone. (Special personal thanks to David from Shenmue Master for all his guidance and technical assistance in merging the additional translations and building test versions).

QA testing was carried out by GameHacKeR.

The Dreamcast case mock-up image was created by Shenmue Forever.

Disc images hosted by Shenmue Dojo.
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Saturday, September 12, 2020

Ryo Goes to the Moon | Shenmue II Out of Bounds Hack

Ryo Goes to the Moon | Shenmue II Hack

One of the many small coding details of Shenmue that surprised even the fans is that the moon that can be seen in a number of iconic Shenmue II scenes is in fact a proper three-dimensional object, and not just a simple two-dimensional image.

This was something that software house d3t discovered when they worked on the Shenmue I & II re-release:

PC Gamer: Did you find anything interesting in the source code?

Noel Austin (d3t): The moon in Shenmue 2 is not a texture. It’s an actual 3D object in the distance correctly lit by the sun direction. This produces accurate phases. We were surprised by this level of detail!

With the help of a hack tool we took Ryo out of bounds on a solo flight to the moon, and he was able to see for himself that Noel's assertion was indeed the truth!

  • Scroll to the end of this post to watch the video footage.
The moon over Man Mo temple.

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Monday, September 7, 2020

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for September 2020

Every month Phantom River Stone holds a poll among our patrons to choose a topic for the blog in the coming month. After tallying the votes (including accumulated votes from previous months), the clear winning topic for September is...

"Yu Suzuki's Research Trip to China 1994: Part Seven"

In 1994 Yu Suzuki spent two weeks in China gathering material for his upcoming Virtua Fighter II game, and his findings also greatly influenced his creation of Shenmue.

  • In Part One, we translated blog posts about the trip by Kazunari Uchida, the person who accompanied Yu Suzuki.
  • In Part Two, we translated Yu Suzuki's own comments about his trip, and how his findings would be useful for the development of the Virtua Fighter series.
  • Part Three was the first of a number of diary-style articles documenting the China trip, again written by Kazunari Uchida, which were published in 1994 as a series in the Japanese Beep! MegaDrive Magazine.
  • Part Four was Kazunari Uchida's journal entry for the start of the trip itself: Day One - Beijing.
  • Part Five was Days Two and Three of the trip in which Yu traveled to Luoyang, Xi'an and Dengfeng.
  • In Part Six, Yu arrived at Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng county and observed fighting demonstrations.
In Part Seven, Yu continues his four-day stay at Shaolin Temple and is left bruised and pained after his full-on sparring sessions. "I think I might have cracked a rib..."

Watch for the article translation coming to the blog in the coming weeks!

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Sunday, September 6, 2020

Video Q&A with Yu Suzuki and Chikara Sakurai | Shenmue Anime

A short video interview with executive producer for the newly-announced Shenmue Anime, Yu Suzuki, and the anime director, Chikara Sakurai, was released at the Crunchyroll Expo.

Watch the clip below, captured by Shenmue Dojo:

Video: Shenmue Dojo


Yu Suzuki
Video Game Creator
Anime Series Executive Producer

Q: What key themes do you want to see in the animated Shenmue?

YS: Shenmue focuses on themes like love, courage, friendship, and family, which are understood around the world. My hope is that it will express the culture and spirit of Japan at the same time.

Q: How do you expect fans to feel about the animated Shenmue?

YS: Shenmue's oldest fans have followed the series for 15 or 20 years now. Part of being that kind of fan is accepting everything about Shenmue, so I think they'll accept the anime just as warmly.

Chikara Sakurai
Anime Director

Q: What were you excited about being the director for Shenmue?

CS: I mentioned that I was too poor to buy the game when it came out. But I wanted to learn as much about it as I could for free. Getting to finally play it now... It's hard to describe. It gave me this very strange feeling. It's like, I can finally do something I couldn't do then, so I need to make sure not to go out of control. I had to avoid this feeling of, "I couldn't do this back then, so now I should be able to do what I want with it." I needed to restrain myself and preserve the game's integrity. I don't know if that answers the question, but that was my approach.

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Saturday, September 5, 2020

Official Shenmue Anime Announced | News

An anime adaptation of the Shenmue game series, called Shenmue -the Animation-, was announced on the Crunchyroll website during the Virtual Crunchyroll Expo. A single preview image below was released:

While various rumors are swirling around the net, this is what has been officially revealed so far:

  • The series will consist of 13 episodes, with a plot that is based on the existing game trilogy (more specifically: "the story of the first game and most of the second").
  • Animation production is by Telecom Animation Film (a subsidiary of TMS Entertainment which is owned be Sega Sammy Holdings), and directed by Chikara Sakurai (animation director on Naruto the Movie and director of season 2 of the animation TV series One Punch Man).
  • The game's creator, Yu Suzuki, is named as Executive Producer for the project.
  • In the US, the series will be shown on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim Saturday nights in the Toonami block. It will be available elsewhere (excluding Japan & China) on video streaming service Crunchyroll. 
  • Work on it has been going on for a while as the project was greenlit "right after the release of Shenmue 3".
  • Jason DeMarco, senior vice president and creative director on-air for Adult Swim, was the one who brought the anime project about, acknowledging in a tweet that "It was me that decided to make the show and took it to our partners."
DeMarco in a statement also said, "The world of Shenmue is fascinating and unique and we are so excited to partner with Yu Suzuki to bring his epic creation to anime - and make a kick-ass martial art epic!"

Further details are expected to be announced during the Expo's stage presentation (Sat, Sep 5, 2020 12:00 PM - 12:45 PM PT) .

The Toonami Facebook page has also announced an upcoming interview with Yu Suzuki:
"Check out an interview with Suzuki on tomorrow, and get ready for the series coming to Toonami and Crunchyroll!"

Update: the interview is now available: 

Other Information

There has also been an interesting tweet from AestheticGamer, who teased the anime announcement in the days before the event. He shared the following information (note that this is not part of an official announcement, but included here for reference):
"The Animation will air on Adult Swim (as they're backing it) & Crunchyroll, the 13-episode season tackles the first game and part of the second game. Includes a lot of story ideas they never got to put into the game either due to budget, time, or mature rating reasons. It'll be an adult animated retelling of Shenmue 1 & 2 with lost story beats, series creator Yu Suzuki has been involved to help the adaption & to realize the previously scrapped story elements to realization."
Cedric Biscay, the CEO of Shibuya Productions and co-producer of Shenmue III, also revealed that his company has no direct involvement in the project. He also gave an assurance that the anime series will have "no impact" on a potential Shenmue IV:
"1) My company and myself are not involved , it can be considered as a « derivated product » like anime usually does with manga. 
2) There is no impact on a potential Shenmue IV game."


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Thursday, September 3, 2020

Cut Content: Ryo's Bicycle Event in Shenmue 2 | VIdeo

Cut Content: Ryo's Bicycle Event in Shenmue 2

In a previous post, we covered the bicycle riding feature that had been shown in promotional footage for Shenmue I in the months leading up to the release but was not kept in the final version.
In fact, Ryo was also to have ridden a bicycle in Shenmue II. In this post, we'll look at clues to piece together what had been planned.

Ryo's Bicycle Riding: Originally Developed for Rural China?

The lead programmer for the first two Shenmue games, Tak Hirai, revealed in a RetroGamer interview that the bicycle riding feature was something he worked on early on in the project (before the later decision to dedicate a full initial chapter to Yokosuka) for Ryo to use in the countryside of China:
Tak Hirai: "Actually, I was the first guy who implemented the bike-riding feature,” he explains. “This was done at the early stage of the development. We originally intended to begin the game in China, so I made it as a showcase to see how it looked when you rode the bike in a meadow. Another programmer took over that part of the project and worked on the vehicle programming at the end of Shenmue."

Ryo Riding in Shenmue II: AM2 Cut Content Screenshots

While no video footage remains of Ryo riding in Shenmue II, there is a single screenshot that shows Ryo on a bicycle. This screenshot was one of several "cut content" screenshots shared publicly by the developers in 2002, after its release, in the Muecas section of the website.

Apart from the bicycle screenshot, another similar screenshot showed Ryo running toward a shop outside which a young girl is standing. We'll look at them both together.
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Saturday, August 22, 2020

Ryo's Bicycle Riding Ability - Part One | Cut Content

Ryo's Bicycle Riding Ability- Part One | Cut Content

Ryo makes use of various modes of transport to move around the world of Shenmue, including buses, motorcycles, ships and ferries - not to mention forklifts. However, one ability which had been widely anticipated but turned out not to be present in the final release is the ability to ride a bicycle.

Anticipation had been fueled prior to the release of the first two games with teases in game magazines and even promotional video footage that Ryo riding a bicycle around his neighborhood. But in the end this feature did not eventuate in either of the games despite development having seemingly been well-advanced.

We've gathered together as much information as we can find and over the course of two parts we will build up a picture of what may have been planned for this feature. 

Ryo's Bicycle Riding: "What's Shenmue" VHS Promotional Footage

In June 1999, a 30-minute promotional video tape named "What's Shenmue" (not to be confused with the game demo which was confusingly given the same name) was distributed in Japan ahead of the game's release, introducing some of the game's main gameplay features.
What's Shenmue VHS tape
What's Shenmue VHS tape

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Thursday, August 13, 2020

Project Team Memories of Working on Shenmue | Famitsu Article Translation

Project Team Memories of Working on Shenmue

This is a translation of an article published online by in November 2018 to commemorate the release of Shenmue I & II. Comments about working on the original Shenmue project were gathered from:
  • Masaya Matsukaze (Ryo Hazuki)
  • Takahiro Sakurai (Lan Di, Goro, Yuan)
  • Megumi Yasu (Nozomi)
  • Ikue Otani (Fangmei)
  • Rio Natsuki (Joy)
  • Tow Ubukata
  • Toshihiro Nagoshi
  • Takenobu Mitsuyoshi
  • Yasuhiro Takagi
  • Kenji Miyawaki
The translation begins below.

In commemoration of the release of Shenmue I & II for the PS4 on 22nd November 2018, we gathered comments from some of the staff members and performers who were involved with the creation of the original games. Enjoy hearing them speak about their remembrances and hardships of the time. (See our separate article to read comments from Fujioka Hiroshi).

Masaya Matsukaze

Role: Ryo Hazuki

Masaya Matsukaze

"Ryo Hazuki is my other self"
Back when amusement arcades were booming, arcade game hit-maker Yu Suzuki turned his talent to creating a home console game. There was a large-scale audition that attracted actors in the motion picture industry, and as I was a Mega Ranger at the time that is when I first met Yu-san.

The game started as "Virtua Fighter RPG", and its genre was the world's first of its kind, designated as "FREE" (an acronym for Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment") but these days called open-world. What Yu-san ideally wanted was "freedom in everything, where things you would expect to happen would naturally happen," and together with a staff of hundreds, he took on the challenge of creating a world that had never before been seen.

I was in charge of the motion capture and spoken lines for the protagonist, Ryo Hazuki. The actions ranged from basic movement like sitting and walking, through to those for QTE events where Ryo would punch or alternatively get punched. When he falls from a high place, that is me falling. Falling down from a height of 15 meters (!) would be fatal, so for this motion capture data for falling from a low height would be extended, along with motion capture for hanging in mid-air and dropping down, The spoken lines for striking up conversations with people had slight variations each time, so I recorded all the lines needed for talking to the same person multiple times, even if they would probably never be heard by the player. It was really a huge volume of recording.

Some of Yu Suzuki's works are on display in the Smithsonian Museum, and this legendary work set a new record in gaming history. Furthermore, this long journey continues on with Shenmue III. There is rarely such an opportunity to obtain a truly legendary work yourself at such an affordable price. I encourage everyone to pick up a copy!

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Saturday, August 8, 2020

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for August 2020

Every month Phantom River Stone holds a poll among our patrons to choose a topic for the blog in the coming month. After tallying the votes (including accumulated votes from previous months), the the winning topic for August is...

"Ryo's Bicycle Riding Ability: What Had Been Planned"

SEGA head teased Ryo's ability to ride a bicycle before the release of Shenmue, and a clip of Ryo riding through Dobuita had even been included in promotional footage in the months leading up to the game. So it came as a surprise to players to find that this feature was not present in the final game.

We will gather together the clues that remain to piece together what had originally been planned.

Watch for an article on this topic in an upcoming blog post!

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Saturday, August 1, 2020

Shenmue Forest Demo (1999 Digitaliland Event Promotion)

Shenmue Digitaliland Event Demo Software (1999)
Digitaliland event flyer, with screenshots from the software demo.
Image credit: James Brown

In an earlier post we covered the extravagant Shenmue promotional exhibition, which was named "Shenmue Forest",  at an event called Digitaliland at the start of May in 1999.

Related Post:
The Digitaliland event came just a month and a half after the 1999 Spring Tokyo Game Show (at which Shenmue was also promoted), but a lot of forethought and planning was put into making this this exhibition something that would dazzle attendees. Yu Suzuki and team even went as far as to build a special software demo that allowed the public to virtually experience what the upcoming exhibition would be like. Full-color flyers announcing the event were distributed using screenshots from the demo (see the title image)

In today's post we will look more closely at this special "Shenmue Forest" demo.

About the Shenmue Forest Software Demo

The Shenmue Forest hands-on demo appeared at the SEGA booth at the Tokyo Game Show in March '99. as a way to fan excitement for the upcoming exhibition, and ran on Dreamcast hardware.

The concept of the demo was simple: it allowed the player to navigate (as Ryo Hazuki) around a three-dimensional virtual model of the yet-to-be Shenmue Forest exhibition.
"The virtual space of 'Shenmue Forest' was able to be played on screen at this game show (TGS '99). Amazing!"
"A virtual recreation of 'Shenmue Forest' was able to be played on screen at this game show (TGS '99). Amazing!"

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Sunday, July 19, 2020

Special Items in Kowloon's "Magic Rooms" | Exploration Series Final Part | Jcgamer

Special Items in Kowloon's "Magic Rooms" | Exploration Series Final Part | Jcgamer

In this Kowloon Exploration series, we have been examining the variety of furniture and other objects that fills the rooms of Kowloon's skyscrapers in Shenmue 2. All screenshots were taken by Jcgamer who carried out a thorough investigation of each room, capturing and cataloging everything found.

Links to the previous parts:
This post is the final part of the series, and we've saved some special items for last!

As well as rounding off our survey of more common items that can be found in multiple locations (Bags, Containers, Vases and Miscellaneous) we'll also present some rarer ones that can be found in only a few rooms - including revealing the location of the legendary revolver!

Category: Bags & Cases

Among the items In this first category, Bags & Cases, are a business-style case, hard-shell travel suitcases, a ladies' handbag and even a dubious-looking bag that looks perfect for holding bundles of cash.

Bags & Cases

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Thursday, July 16, 2020

Bailu Village Secrets Part 3 - Kong Mei: A Life | Guest Post by Dave Matthews (SalsaShark)

Bailu Village Secrets Part 3: Kong Mei

Hello again everyone! Welcome back for Part III of Bailu Village Secrets!  If you missed them, Parts I & II can be found here:
Throughout the last two posts I've been dropping what I hope were enticing hints about one of my absolute favorite characters in Shenmue III, Kong Mei. Now the time has finally arrived for a deep dive into a life that's taken many fascinating (and easily missable) turns!

A Kindly Shop Owner (or A Prickly Granny)

A view of Panda Market at night
A view of Panda Market at night
Panda Market becomes accessible fairly early in the story when Ryo is tasked with tracking down the stone mason, Ke Junhao, and it's about the closest thing to a bustling downtown as you'll find in Bailu. Depending on the time of day, Ryo can encounter different villagers going to and fro as they shop at the fruit stand, take in the savory aroma of steamed buns, and line up in front of the Bai Jiu Stand (seriously, Su Hong must be doing gangbusters).

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Saturday, July 11, 2020

Shenmue Selected by IGN Japan as All-Time Best SEGA Game

Shenmue Selected As IGN Japan's All-Time Best SEGA Game

To celebrate the year of SEGA's 60th anniversary, IGN Japan counted down their all-time top 10 SEGA games.

And ranking in at first place is Shenmue - specifically, the first game in the series!

IGN Japan's Esra Krabbe commented on the magic of Shenmue as follows (translation):
"Shenmue undeniably had a tremendous influence on the games that followed it, although now of course there are many games that - on the surface, at least - far surpass it. However, this is not a title that can be simply dismissed as "old". Its design, which focuses on density over area size and reality over entertainment, creates a real, believable world that amazes even now. Shenmue follows real-world rules to an extent that some might find tedious, and with some of its highlights being details that can easily go unnoticed, it can be hard to understand what makes it so special. The premise of a young Japanese man traveling to China creates a unique setting. The story, which deals with concepts such as cultural values and communication across cultures and depicts a journey of finding one’s roots, forms something so powerful it can be life-changing, especially if you play it in your formative years".

IGN Japan's All-Time Top 10 SEGA Games 

  1. Shenmue
  2. Yakuza 0
  3. Virtua Fighter 4
  4. Nights into Dreams
  5. Sonic Adventure
  6. Valkyria Chronicles
  7. Jet Set Radio
  8. Sakura Wars 4
  9. Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA
  10. Out Run
Notes on the selection:
  • Eligibility: any game ever developed or published by SEGA, regardless of platform.
  • Factors considered included historical impact, innovation and quality.
  • In the case of a game series, only one title from the series could be selected.
  • Titles by Atlus, a subsidiary of SEGA, were excluded.
Source: IGN Japan article (Japanese)
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Sunday, July 5, 2020

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for July 2020

Every month Phantom River Stone holds a poll among our patrons to choose a topic for the blog in the coming month. After tallying the votes (including accumulated votes from previous months), the the winning topic for July is...

"Memories about working on Shenmue I & II by various Japanese voice actors & project members".

In November 2018, when Shenmue I & II was released in Japan, gathered comments from several of the original members of the Japanese cast and development team, and asked them to share their memories of creating the games. Included were Masaya Matsukaze (voice & motion actor for Ryo), Ikue Ōtani (voice of Megumi), Tow Ubukata (scenario writing) and Takenobu Mitsuyoshi (music).

We will be translating their comments into English in an upcoming blog post.

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Saturday, July 4, 2020

Exploring Shenmue Forest at the "Network Jungle II: Digitaliland" Event (1999)

Exploring Shenmue Forest at the "Network Jungle II: Digitaliland" Event (1999)

Coming into 1999, the excitement around the upcoming release of Shenmue was growing ever stronger. The game had been gathering widespread interest, with Shenmue Premiere events being held in multiple cities across Japan from the end of the previous year, and the public had their first hands-on taste of Shenmue at the March 1999 Tokyo Game Show (TGS). Following this, the next major event at which Shenmue was shown was a multimedia event called "Network Jungle II: Digitaliland" in early May 1999. SEGA pulled out all the stops in promoting the game, with video footage, stage events, merchandise, demonstrations, hands-on play and even a special "virtual exhibition" demo which ran on Dreamcast hardware. Magazine reports quoted Yu Suzuki as saying people could look forward to seeing significant improvements since the Shenmue demos shown at TGS.

In this post we'll recap everything SEGA lined up for Shenmue at the Digitaliland event.

Image credits: special thanks to PRS patron James Brown, our friends at Shenmue Master and to Kohji for their images & photos of the event.

Network Jungle

If you are wondering about the meaning behind the event's name...

"Network Jungle" is the name of an experimental project that was started by NHK Enterprises (one of the group companies owned by Japan's national broadcaster NHK) in 1997, to investigate how digital content and communications would shape Japan's society in the near future. Government ministries were also involved as sponsors.

Part I took the form of a special broadcast program on channel BS2 in 1997 that was called "Network Jungle: How Electronic Networks Will Change the World".

For Part II, a three-day exhibition event was organized to allow the public to experience the potential of multimedia and digital communications for themselves. A digest of this event was subsequently broadcast as a documentary with the even wordier name of "Network Jungle II: The Future is Coming to Your Home! Explore Digitaliland!" 

A few months later, in July of that year, NHK would broadcast a third documentary in the Network Jungle series, "Network Jungle III: a Vision of the Future! A New Digital Era", which documented the making of Shenmue.

Today's post is about the Shenmue promotion at the event produced for the second part of the Network Jungle series.

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Friday, June 26, 2020

The Official Shenmue Jigsaw Puzzle | Timelapse Video by James Brown

The Official Shenmue Jigsaw Puzzle | Timelapse Video by James Brown

The Shenmue jigsaw puzzle is one of the lesser-known pieces of officially-licensed Shenmue merchandise, released in 1999 ahead of the launch of the first game in the series, and there is very little to be found online in the way of information or even images.

But it's now possible to see the jigsaw up close, thanks to avid Shenmue collector and PRS patron James Brown, who has created a superb timelapse video showcasing the jigsaw and showing the start-to-finish process of solving and framing the jigsaw. The many hours of effort it took to finish can be enjoyed in minutes!

About the Shenmue Jigsaw

The jigsaw was released as a licensed product of SEGA Enterprises in 1999.
  • Size: 750 x 500 mm
  • Pieces: 1000
  • Manufacturer: Yutaka, with "PUZZLE COMPANY" branding
  • Box contents: bag of jigsaw pieces, general information sheet, glue & sponge.
  • Serial number: N3100-001
  • Country of manufacture: Japan
  • Year of release: 1999
The jigsaw image is a composite of characters from the Shenmue series: Ryo Hauzki, Shenhua, Xiuying, Lan Di, Iwao Hazuki, Niao Sun, Chai and Ren. At the bottom right is the Shenmue logo, and a smaller YS logo.
Box cover
Box cover

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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Exploring Kowloon's "Magic Rooms" [Part 3] | Jcgamer

Exploring Kowloon's "Magic Rooms" [Part 3] | Jcgamer

Welcome to part 3 in this series on the "magic rooms"  to be found within Kowloon's skyscrapers in Shenmue 2, in which we present the findings made by Jcgamer who has thoroughly explored the Kowloon rooms and taken screenshots of all the individual items found inside, and finally carefully sorted these into categories for our enjoyment!

The previous parts revealed the great variety the developers put into populating the rooms:
Today we turn our attention to the categories of Electrical Appliances, Bottles, Ceiling Fans & Light Fittings and House Plants.

Category: Appliances

The main types of electrical appliances to be found in the rooms are television sets and refrigerators. 

The fridges show the greatest variation, with different colors (white, green, red, yellow), sizes (full-size, half-size) and doors (one-door and two-door styles). The family photos taped to the front of one of the fridges are a nice touch.

The variation in the TVs is more limited, with some having cabinet doors underneath, but only a single style of set to be seen.

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Thursday, June 11, 2020

Yu Suzuki Celebrates His 62nd Birthday

Yu Suzuki celebrated his 62nd birthday.yesterday, on June 10th, and tweeted out a photo on his personal account.
Happy birthday to Yu!
Happy birthday to Yu! (Source tweet)
His tweet reads (translation):
Thank you everyone for your wishes!
I have turned 62.
I'll keep giving my best.
The icing message on the cake reads "WanWan Happy 62nd". The meaning of WanWan (わんわん) is not clear, but it means "bow wow" in Japanese. Yu was born in 1958 which is Year of the Dog in the Chinese Zodiac, so perhaps that is the connection..?

We also sent our own message of congratulations to Yu on behalf of the Shenmue fans, and we wish him an amazing year to come.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Shenmue I & II Sound Collection Online from SEGA

SEGA has today made the #Shenmue I & II Soundtrack collection available online!

The full collection of 40 songs can be streamed for free, or purchased through one of the many services.
Here is the title list in English:

Enjoy listening to the collection now on...

YouTube Music

The complete collection can be purchased for 1580 yen (about $15 USD).

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Monday, June 8, 2020

Bailu Village Secrets Part 2: Ranking Boards at Martial Hall | Guest Post by Dave Matthews (SalsaShark)

Bailu Village Secrets Part 2: Ranking Boards at Martial Hall

Hello again everyone and welcome to part two of Bailu Village Secrets! If you missed it, in part 1 we took a look at the ema housed in Man Yuan Temple and the stories they tell about the village and its inhabitants.

Related post:
Today I want to focus on Martial Hall. Situated on a picturesque overlook with a gorgeous view of the Verdant Bridge, Martial Hall is the first building Ryo encounters in his descent from Shenhua's home down into Bailu proper. Here Ryo can practice his horse stance and one-inch punch on the wooden training dummies out front and polish his fighting techniques by either sparring with or challenging the five resident monks.  

Five Tigers
Five Tigers
Ryo starts out unranked and must defeat each monk in turn - from Red Tiger at 1st duan to Gold Tiger who stands alone at 5th duan – if he wants to reach the top of the rankings posted on the dojo wall.

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Thursday, June 4, 2020

Shenmue 3 Developer Interview with Implausible Industries

Following Shenmue III's release, the number of interviews and reports has naturally dwindled, so wouldn't it be great to hear some behind-the-scenes stories about the development process from people who actually worked on the game?

For Shenmue Day we present a new community interview with two developers from Implausible Industries, who were part of the development team that worked on the creation of Shenmue III and kindly agreed to answer questions from the fans about their experience. (A shout-out to mjqjazzbar from the Shenmue Dojo forums for getting the ball rolling on the idea!)

Shenmue 3 Developer Interview with Implausible Industries:

Implausible Industries is a Tokyo-based software house formed in 2013 by a small team of highly-experienced developers, who specialize in consulting and development of games on Unreal Engine. 

The questions for the interview were gathered from the fan community on social media, and the two developers answering this fan interview are:

Daniel Markiewicz
Shenmue 3 Role: Level Designer


Kees Gajentaan
Shenmue 3 Role: Shader Artist

(Also part of the development of Shenmue III was a third Implausible Industries team member, Chris Willacy).

The interview begins below.
Shenmue III logo
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Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for June 2020

Every month Phantom River Stone holds a poll among our patrons to choose a topic for the blog in the coming month. After tallying the votes (including accumulated votes from previous months), the the winning topic for May is...

"The 1999 NETWORK JUNGLE II Digitaliland Exhibition & the Shenmue Forest demo".

Network Jungle II was the name of an event held at the Tokyo Big Sight exhibition center from May 1st to May 3rd in 1999. It consisted of several different areas, which were called "forests" such as the Game Forest, Communications Forest, Forest of Education and Forest of Tomorrow. Its aim was to bring the world of multimedia to the general public by providing hands-on experiences. Shenmue was was previewed at the event, and it even had a virtual demo that ran on Dreamcast hardware, called Shenmue Forest.
We will take a look at this topic in more depth in an upcoming blog post.

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Saturday, May 30, 2020

Izumi Takano Was Once Considered for Ryo's Love Interest

Izumi Takano, who can be found working at the Tomato Convenience Store in Wan Chai in Shenmue II, was once a candidate character model for the role of Nozomi Harasaki in the first game.

Izumi Takano at the Tomato Convenience Store in Shenmue II
Izumi Takano at the Tomato Convenience Store in Shenmue II
This was confirmed in a tweet last year by one of the former developers on the original Shenmue project team, who goes by the name of Morio Ashizuka. He wrote:
"I recall that the high school girl you fight in Shenmue II, Izumi Takano, was a rejected candidate character for Nozomi (if I remember correctly...). Which may be why Ryo looked at her so dreamily, lol. The reason the rejected Izumi Takano appeared in Shenmue II was due to strong campaigning by Mr. O from the Planning team. He is a big fan of ponytails!"
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Saturday, May 23, 2020

Suka Pass v1.3 Out Now | Fan-Made Shenmue Passport

The Shenmue World menu screen, recreated in Suka Pass
The Shenmue World menu screen, recreated in Suka Pass
Version 1.3 of the fan-made Shenmue Passport app Suka Pass, which we previewed here, has just been released and is available for download. A major new feature this time around is the All Moves Scroll section, giving information on all the kicks, punches and throws that Ryo has learned. And those who enjoy listening to the Shenmue music selection will also appreciate the addition of a progress bar to the music player.

A fine release trailer has been created by Jibby (check out his Jibmue YouTube channel here for more Shenmue vids) which highlights the new features:

SkillJim, from the Suka Pass project team, has also put together a comprehensive overview of the entire app:

The app is available for Android and iOS, and is of course completely free. Head over to the Suka Pass project site to download.

Link to download Suka Pass 1.3 (Project webpage)

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Four Unused Drink Can Textures in Shenmue

Unused Drink Can Textures in Shenmue

Japan is known for its numerous drink vending machines offering anything from a cool beverage to a hot soup. For anyone visiting the real Dobuita Street, for an even more authentic Shenmue experience keep an eye out for the machine that still sells cans of Coke at 1986 prices!

Shenmue (specifically, the first game in the series) recreates this aspect of Japan faithfully with a number of vending machines scattered around its world, from Dobuita Street to New Yokosuka Harbor.

Although players will be familiar with the sodas and coffee seen in the game, there is in fact some evidence that other drink flavors were considered while the game was in development in the form of an image file containing some unused can label designs is present in the game files.

We will take a look at the image in this post, but first let's take a moment to mention the difference in labels that can be found between released versions of Shenmue.
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Saturday, May 16, 2020

Bailu Village Secrets Part 1: Ema at Man Yuan Temple | Guest Post by Dave Matthews

Bailu Village Secrets Part 1: Ema at Man Yuan Temple | Guest Post by Dave Matthews

Hello Everyone! First off I'd like to thank Switch for the opportunity to post on Phantom River Stone and to share this with you all!

This is going to be the first in a series of posts examining Bailu Village in detail. Shenmue 3 depicts Shenhua's childhood home as an idyllic, rural, mountain community with a long history; one in which just about everyone knows everyone else, and nothing much changes day to day. It's a small wonder then that the coinciding events of the attacks on the village stonemasons and the arrival of Ryo Hazuki is of such keen (if wary at first) interest to just about everybody.

One of the key features that made Shenmue so distinct when it first released was the fact that Ryo could talk to every NPC he came across. These NPCs often had unique ways of responding to Ryo that made them feel like real people with lives beyond their relevance to Ryo's journey. Shenmue 3 by and large continues this tradition. In Bailu alone every villager that Ryo can speak to (which is the vast majority of them) seems to have a unique response to almost every single topic of investigation. Often these unique responses shed light on the villagers themselves, their relationships with each other, and their life aspirations.
Bailu Village

In addition to conversing with the locals themselves, a number of physical locations throughout the village reveal even more details about its inhabitants; some of which are very easy to miss on a standard play through. It is these locations that I'm going to focus on starting today with Man Yuan Temple – and in particular the racks of wooden wishing plaques, known as ema, inside.

The History of Ema

The tradition of hanging prayer ema is actually a Japanese custom with historical roots in Shintoism. In the Nara period in Japan (AD 710 – 794) worshipers would donate horses as offerings to shrines in the hope that since the horse was revered as the vehicle of the gods (kami), the kami would be more likely to listen and answer the worshipers' prayers. Horses were prohibitively expensive for most Japanese people of that era however, and over time clay and wooden sculptures came to be used. These sculptures in turn evolved into wooden plaques with a picture (e) of a horse (ma).
A wooden wishing plaque (ema) with a picture of a horse.
A wooden wishing plaque (ema) with a picture of a horse.
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Friday, May 15, 2020

Suka Pass v1.3 Preview: All Moves Scroll

The Suka Pass fan-made app recreates the Shenmue Passport for mobile devices, and the development team has shared a preview of new features that will included in the upcoming release (v1.3).

One of the major features is a new section called the All Moves Scroll, which provides information on all the punches, kicks and throws in the game including the full descriptions of every move that were part of the original Passport. You can discover which moves "evolve" to a different form once they have been mastered, and observe both sets of animations.
Browsing the All Moves Scroll
Learning about a move

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